Transcript: Rex Ryan, 5.24

Opening Statement…

First off, you guys saw practice today.  The tempo is the first thing that jumps out at me.  Here you put in a brand new system on offense, sometimes there are growing pains, just like there was when we put a brand new system in on defense, and you kind of slow things down.  We’re not working at that pace.  We’re working at a fast pace. I just love the temperament our guys are playing with.  They’re flying around, enjoying it, and going against each other.  You see a lot of smiles on faces, and guys are excited.  Both sides of the ball are excited. Two guys that I want to talk about first that I’m really excited about, (and) the guys you might not think about, but Bart Scott.  I think Bart, he’s ready to be Bart Scott, the guy that we brought in here.  I think when we look at it, Bart would tell you that he had kind of a disappointing year last year just like I’ll tell you I had a disappointing year last year.

This whole football team, definitely Bart and I, we want to have a great year this year.  I think you see that.  David (Harris) is not out there with a little bit of a calf strain, no big deal.  But in the sub-package, we moved Bart to “Mike” backer (and) he’s leading all those things, but you see that energy.  I think he’s the type of guy that has that personality that his teammates respond. When Bart’s up, the team’s up.  That’s what it seems like to me.  He’s a guy that’s been jumping out at me.  He’s had a great off season.  The fighting spirit that Bart has, I think you see it out there. It’s evident.  So he’s a guy that’s jumping out at me.  Another guy, and I don’t want to compare him to other players in the league and all that stuff, because I think this guy’s going to write his own ticket, and that’s Muhammad Wilkerson. So you see the jump that he’s making. I had a conversation with him today about how it’s interesting that the great ones challenge themselves every day.  Darrelle Revis is a perfect example.  Darrelle’s trying to get better every single day.  Even though he’s at the top, he’s still trying to get better every day. That’s why one day we know he’ll be in the Hall of Fame, without question.  But he’s working like he’s as hungry as he was the first day he walked in here.  I think Muhammad Wilkerson, we all saw him (getting better) as the year went on last year, and he’s taken off from there. It’s exciting for a coach to see that.  Your young players and things are not content with just being a good football player, which obviously he was last year.  But I think he sees himself doing even more things than that.  So he’s really jumped out at me.  I think (Mark) Sanchez is throwing the ball really well.  He’s got a live arm, a lot of zip on it.  We saw (Stephen) Hill go for an 80-yard touchdown today on a double move, and you see the explosive speed.  But really, just the guys in general as a football team, we look fast.  We look like we’re in shape for this time of year.  The challenge will be to be in world class shape, especially those wideouts.  We’re going to have to be in world class shape.  I say that because that tempo’s going to pick up.  We see our tempo on offense, and we’re going to run some vertical routes – a lot of vertical routes.  I think those are things that we have to be in that kind of shape, that world-class shape. The tempo of our offense will make our defense be in better shape, because we’re working against it every single day.  That’s encouraging to me as well.  But with that, I don’t have a whole lot to say. I’ll just open it up to questions.

On what he has seen from Sanchez during the first week of OTAs…

Really, since he’s come back, he’s probably the healthiest he’s been.  The first year he had no clue, he was just out there.  But he’s healthy.  He’s stronger than he’s ever been.  He’s in great shape.  Bill Hughan and company out there, and Paul Ricci and Justus (Galac), they do a great job in there.  This kid’s in great shape, as are most of our guys. But I just think he’s stronger.  Obviously, he’s going into his fourth year.  He’s seen a lot of different things, but that arm looks stronger to me.  He’s throwing the ball and really zipping it, throwing with touch and things.  I really like the way he’s throwing the football.

On what the wake-up call for Sanchez was…

I think the biggest wake-up call we had as a football team was the fact that we never made the playoffs.  That was a huge wake-up call for us.  You can’t just assume you’re going to make it.  That starts with me.  I knew there had to be a lot of work to be done to make it.  And a lot of really good teams every year don’t make the playoffs.  That is the first for us since I’ve been here.  I think you realize how much you miss it.  You want to be involved in that.  The guys don’t play this game to collect a check.  This organization, our guys, play because they want to be special, and we want to be in those types of games.  Obviously, the ultimate is what the Giants accomplished.  That’s what we want to accomplish.  But not being in the playoffs I think stung everybody and motivated us, drives us, and Sanchez, I think that is the greatest motivator there is.  Hunger for being in the postseason is I think the biggest driving force that we have.

On if acquiring Tim Tebow also motivated Sanchez…

I’m not sure, you’d have to ask Mark.  When you look at it, we’re excited that Tim Tebow is here.  Those two guys are good teammates.  They’re good for each other and good for our football team in general.  They’re both very competitive guys.  That’s great.  At the end of the day, we want 53 great competitors and good teammates.  I think we’ll have that this year.

On if Tebow playing on special teams makes him nervous because of the potential for injury…

You guys have seen him.  You know what I mean?  That’s a big man.  I remember my dad always saying it’s hard to kick somebody’s butt, I don’t know if he used that exact word. (laughter) But, it’s hard to kick somebody’s butt when he’s kicking your butt.  So they’re going to line up and come after Tebow and all that.  I can tell you one guy that’s not afraid of it, and that’s Tim Tebow.  I’m not afraid of it either.  I just think what he can help us with being that personal protector of the punt team is, are you sure you really want to rush that punt?  If its fourth-and-six, seven or less, are you sure you really want to rush it, because we may fake it.  Westy (Mike Westhoff) is crazy enough to fake it.  I mean, Westy will fake it.  Let’s face it, Weatherford faked the punt on fourth-and-27 or whatever it was that time. (laughing) So we’ll do it again.  But I think you want a guy, we had Brad Smith.  Did you really want to rush when Brad Smith was your personal protector?  A guy that can throw it?  Tim gives you that inside running presence, an outside running presence, he can throw it and oh, by the way, he’ll run.  He’s a football player.  We’ve said it for a long time.  This guy’s an excellent football player and a great competitor.  I have a feeling he’ll run down and tackle somebody.

On how Tebow has looked as a quarterback…

I think we’ve had some ups and downs.  He’s probably had a couple of picks today, I think.  He was better the first day.  I know the way training camp will be, you’ll have the exact numbers and what it was and all that, and that’s fine.  But I think he’s done well. I think for everybody, it’s a new offense.  You’re trying to learn some basic things, not do anything specifically tailor-made for this quarterback or that quarterback or this guy, running routes with guys.  We’re just putting in our base offense and that’s what we’re doing right now.  I think he’s got a good grasp of it.  I think all the quarterbacks do.  I like where our quarterbacks are right now.

On when they will install some of the Tebow packages…

That won’t be until later.  You’re talking about wildcat stuff in particular, that will come in later.  Right now, it’s installing some of our base offenses.  As we know with Tony, the wildcat was part of the offense.  It’s just going to go in later.

On if the team needs to start games faster in order to utilize the running game and wildcat…

I don’t know about that.  I think in the past when we’ve been here, we sometimes did that.  We’d go one, two, three stalled drives and we’d put Brad Smith in.  It seemed that sometimes it would give you a shot in the arm.  (When) we played Cincinnati, certainly, there were times you’d do that.  Sorry, I just think Tim will be part of what we do offensively with that wildcat and things.  So when he chooses during drives or whenever it is, that will be up to Tony (Sparano).  But obviously you prefer to get off to a fast start. There is no question about that.  That is something certainly that we were maybe inconsistent with last year in that category.  But, yeah, you’d love to.  I think this is a team that if we get ahead of you the way we can run the football, you have three Pro Bowl offensive linemen in that group.  You have a big back in Shonn Greene back there.  A big, talented back and we’re certainly going to have some weapons on the outside that you’ve got to worry about that as well. I just think that we’re a team that if we get ahead, it obviously bodes well for us.

On if feeling like he had a disappointing season was the reason he wanted to become more involved with the defense this year…

I need to (be around the team), it’s not just with the defense.  For me, I’m the guy that needs to be around the players.  Whether I’m in offensive meetings, defensive meetings, I’ve been in more offensive meetings than I was last year going around to different groups.  I was in a wideout meeting one day, and I said I don’t know what else I can bring to the table, but let me tell you why you’re going to come off 100 mph to run a draw play and what it does to the defense, how you recognize the coverage and whatever.  I’m trying to do everything I can.  I love football.  I’ve been blessed to be around the game a long time.  I think I’ve picked up some knowledge along the way.  For me, I like to teach the game.  I’m passionate about the game, and I need to do that.  It has nothing to do with, well, we weren’t here or there or wherever.  We look at it as a disappointment. We were fifth in the league in defense.  We all know we can do better.  But what my role is, yeah, I’m going to be in meetings more.  Even (re-arrange) what we’ll do just so I have a chance to watch film more.  It will affect our schedule during the season and be a little different even with you guys, just so I can have a chance to be with my coaches more.  That’s something I need to do.  For me to be at my best, I need to do something I’m decent at, which is coach.

On how much last season stung personally…

Oh, please.  It stings me the fact that I let the fans down.  I let myself down, that kills me, no question.  I let the fans down.  That kills me.  Maybe not as much as I let myself down, but close, I feel it.  I sense the fans.  Believe me.  I was a New York Jet fan when I was (young).  But I want it, I want it for this franchise.  More than anything, I want it for our players and I want it for the man that had the courage to hire me.  So, heck yeah, it stings, no question.

On if Tebow’s popularity adds more pressure to Sanchez…

This is New York.  When you look at it, we’ve got enough pressure anyway.  We understand that.  We just want to win.  If it’s Tim Tebow or Marcus Dixon, we want to win.  That’s it.  Does it add pressure?  I don’t know.  I’m just happy that Tim Tebow’s on this football team.

On if having Tebow on the team adds more pressure to Sanchez since Sanchez has a had a degree of success during his first three seasons…

I don’t know.  You look at it, and Mark and I have experienced the exact same highs and lows.  He’s thrown more touchdowns than I have, but I sense it.  I know he’s super competitive.  He wants to win.  I think anybody that can help us win, whether it’s a back-up guard, a starting (player), whatever, I think we’re happy for (that player).  We want to win.  I know Mark is the same way, I know Tim is the same way, and I know every guy that we’re going to have on our team is going to be the same way.  That’s our rallying cry.  We want to win, man.  That’s where it is. Is it more pressure because you have a better quarterback competing with you?  Maybe so.  But I think great competitors love competing.  I can say this:  Great competitors want to win. More than anything else, they want to win.

On the offense being less game-plan specific this season…

I’m certainly not going to be critical of Brian Schottenheimer.  I thought Brian did a tremendous job.  You know what I think of Brian.  I think he’s a tremendous coach.  We did lead the league in rushing the first year we were here.  Second year, we ran the ball effectively.  Last year it wasn’t as good.  I never thought we found a rhythm, especially early in the season running the football.  I think for us to be successful as a team, we have to be able to run the football. Sometimes, is it going to be tough sledding?  Absolutely.  But that has to be who we are.  It’s like us blitzing on defense.  That’s who we are.  I think that’s going to be part of our identity is to run the football.  That’s going to open up our play-action game, open up our guys on the outside, and that’s what we want to do.

On if it is an obstacle that Sanchez will be learning a new offense in his fourth season…

It’s not a new (offense).  I understand what you’re saying.  Well, the defense in particular.  This is our fourth season running this defense.  So maybe the challenge, mentally, isn’t quite like it would be like when you’re first learning something.  But I think everybody’s excited about it.  Even when we first got here, we had to learn a brand new defense.  I don’t think it really hurt us.  We led the league.  I think sometimes guys love to be challenged, physically they like to be challenged, and I also think they like to be challenged mentally.  Certainly, this will be a challenge.  You’re learning a brand new system.  Maybe you take things for granted a little bit.  I’m not saying that happened, but maybe that’s the case when you’ve learned (the system), like Bart Scott who has been in the same system for 10 years.  But the thing I noticed about Bart Scott is he’s got his notepad out taking notes.  Now that’s encouraging to me and exciting for me.

On if he is concerned that LaRon Landry is not present for OTAs…

Well, the thing about LaRon is obviously he had a significant injury. There is no question about that.  But we’re excited to get him up to speed.  Hopefully by training camp he’s ready to go.  I’m not sure medically when he’ll be cleared.  But certainly he has the physical attributes that you look for and it will be exciting to get out here.  Right now, I’m really happy with Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith out there.  I mean, Yeremiah Bell had all of one day, not even. The great thing is we’re sitting back there, and Dennis (Thurman) is like I’ll stand back there and make sure you’re getting it.  And (Bell) said, “No, please don’t.  Eric and I will handle the communication.”  In other words, I’ll listen to see what Eric says.  As we all know Eric Smith, he knows the system probably as well as I do, and Mike Pettine, and anybody else. I mean (he’s a) smart guy.  But that’s really exciting.  Some of the things are played a little differently, but Yeremiah is an outstanding player.  So I like the looks of that first group there with Eric and Yeremiah Bell. (It) looks tremendous to me.  Some of the young guys are improving.  It’s a little slow.  (We’re) really looking forward to getting LaRon Landry here and get him healthy.  That will be outstanding, I think.

On if Landry’s absence is injury related…

These are voluntary type things.  Obviously, I think we’re so used to it over the two previous seasons and even this year we probably had as many guys in our off-season program as anybody, even though it’s voluntary.  We probably had as many guys in our program this year and the first two (years) as anybody in the league.  But it is a voluntary type thing.  I’m excited to coach the people that are here and they’ve done a tremendous job so far.

On if signing Bell rules out a return for Jim Leonhard… 

I’m never going to say that.  The way Tannenbaum is, Mike is always trying to put together the best team he can put out there.  Certainly one thing we know about Jim Leonhard is Jim Leonhard will do whatever it takes to be back physically.  You know he’s pushing himself.  I don’t think Jim Leonhard is done as a football player.  I think it’s a huge challenge for him.  Any time you’re overcoming a significant injury, it’s going to be a big challenge.  But I think we all know Jim Leonard, and I definitely would not bet against him.

On what is unique about how Sparano stresses ball security…

I think we saw it today when he has the entire (offense) chase the football.  If there is a turnover, the entire offense, I don’t care where you are, you can be in the bleachers, and they’re running on the field trying to make the tackle.  I think the big thing is Tony recognizes that you’ve got to get him on the ground.  Last year, we gave up seven returns for touchdowns.  Our first year, we gave up seven returns for touchdowns.  So I think that’s an emphasis, get the man on the ground.  We have an excellent defense.  They’re not in there until they’re in there.  So whatever it takes to get that mentality, hey, it’s a turnover, boom, I have to be the guy that makes the tackle.  I don’t care where it is.  My biggest concern is when we do turn the ball over, are all the guys on the bench going to go on the field? (laughing) That might be a concern.  It just shows you the emphasis that Tony is putting on it.  There is no question.  The effort is great.  We love the effort.  He’s coaching and teaching constantly.  But that is something that if you ever want to see him get riled up, it’s when you turn the ball over and you’re not protecting it.